As many of you know, I haven’t written on the The Leftern Wall in a long time. My shorter writings have mostly been condensed into <140 characters, i.e., Twitter, and my longer writings have mostly been expanded into >70,000 words, i.e., novel[s].
But I wanted to write here, quickly, today, to tell a story and ask for help. Here goes.
“Jerusalem Day” was last week. Since moving back to Jerusalem in 2011, Jerusalem Day has been one of the most consistently awful days, each year, with so much of what is wrong with this place crammed into a single, gleeful, frightening march. In the early years, I joined Palestinian demonstrations against the march; these were broken up violently and ferociously with stun grenades and border police mounted on horseback, and basically stopped happening, in large scale, post-2014. Since, I’ve gone and glumly documented the march along with a handful of other activists, and sometimes attended the well-intended but toothless counter-demonstration held near the municipality.
This past week, though, I participated in a direct action to try to stop the march.
As the march made it’s way down to the Damascus Gate, in the center of Palestinian East Jerusalem, around 25 activists, organized by folks from IfNotNow, All That’s Left, and Free Jerusalem, stood in front of the gate, held up a banner that said “End the Occupation” in English, Hebrew and Arabic.
(I was exhausted that day, after an almost-sleepless night in Sarura, and hadn’t totally decided whether I would join the group, but after taking the above photo, it felt too strange to simply observe this action taken by my friends and colleagues, so I joined the human blockade seeking to prevent or at least delay the violent, nationalistic march).
Within moments, the group was surrounded by Israeli border policemen, and told to disperse. We nonviolently refused to comply, sitting down on the ground, arms linked.
I was dragged out toward the end. The dispersal was one of the most disturbing ones I’ve experienced in my six-ish years doing activism and direct action here. Here’s why:
I was sitting on the ground, linked to just one other activist on my left, after already having been dragged away once. The other activist was then pulled away. A policeman then grabbed my left arm, and began to twist it backwards, hard. I yelled that he was hurting me.
He yelled, in Hebrew: “Kum!” Stand!
“Ok,” I said, “Ok, I’m trying to stand.”
Then he winked.
He winked, and kept yelling, “Stand, stand,” while twisting my arm, and holding me down on the ground.
Over the years, I’ve been pushed and shoved and punched and dragged and kicked and hit with a nightstick in my lower body, but each of those times, the violence felt chaotic, filled with adrenaline and fear, impersonal, random. This was the first time I felt like an Israeli policeman was trying to hurt me for no other reason than to cause me pain. It wasn’t to clear me out faster, or move me away more efficiently: it felt like a calculated effort to punish me. And with a wink.
I grabbed my left arm with my right arm, frightened, but then felt myself being pulled upwards by a different policeman. Maybe he didn’t get that the other guy wasn’t actually trying to get to me stand; maybe he didn’t like what the other guy was doing; maybe it was random. Regardless, I was pulled up, and the first policemen let go of my arm. I was then shoved out of the area, with another, older policeman pinching me in the back and murmuring in my year, “Ya efes, you zero, get the hell out of here.”
I went home soon after, shaken and drained, walking against the flow of the gleeful national march, populated mostly by such young, sweet-faced, fervent youths.
When I heard that another member of the action, Sarah Brammer-Shlay, was taken to the hospital with a possibly broken arm, I felt nauseous and unsurprised. I do not know this for sure, but it seemed to me that the police might have broken her arm on purpose, or at least given very little regard to whether or not they hurt her.
Sarah is an organizer with IfNotNow. She was here with the Center for Jewish Nonviolence delegation. She is planning on starting Rabbinical School in the fall, and while I don’t her so well, from our interactions, I know that she is a deeply compassionate and radically decent human being. You can read her recent interview with Haaretz here.
It later became clear that not only was her arm broken, but the break, which was right above her elbow, was so severe that she would have to undergo surgery to prevent permanent damage.
And here is where the ask comes in.
Sarah is not an Israeli citizen. Her US insurance will not cover the surgery (god bless America…). The surgery will cost $25,000.
The good news is folks from IfNotNow and other communities have already began fundraising efforts, and have raised almost $16,000 at the time of this writing (8PM Wednesday evening). Her surgery is tomorrow morning. It feels crucial beyond crucial that Sarah should not have to pay a single cent/shekel.
This was an action taken as part of a community; Sarah has to bear the brunt of the physical pain and fear, but it is upon us, members of this community– and it is a wide, beautiful community, based on a shared commitment to values of justice and fairness, and to fighting for Palestinian, and Jewish, and Israeli futures free from occupation and oppression– it is upon members of our community to make sure Sarah doesn’t have to pay for this surgery or recovery out of her own pocket, now, or down the road.
So: Please give, even a few dollars. It is awful what happened to Sarah; let’s at least make sure that she enters the operating room tomorrow morning knowing that she is supported and held by hundreds and thousands of people around the world.